Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Miami Beach city manager recommends architect for convention center project

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales has recommended entering into negotiations with Fentress Architects to draw up plans for a long-stalled renovation of the city’s convention center.

A selection committee in late March ranked Fentress first of eight proposals received in response to a city bid for the project.

Miami Beach is looking for a firm to draw up plans that will become the basis of another bid — this one to pick a design-build team that will complete a $500 million renovation.

At a special meeting scheduled for April 9, the city commission will weigh the committee’s rankings and the city manager’s recommendation and make the final decision to award the current bid.

In selecting Fentress, Morales noted the firm’s 27 years of experience in convention center planning and design, and its experience keeping convention centers open while under construction. Morales also emphasized that the company has “completed 150 public buildings on time and on budget.” The company has built new convention centers in Denver, Colo.; Palm Springs and Pasadena, Calif.; and Sante Fe, N.M.; and currently is expanding the San Diego Convention Center.

Fentress also earned a nod for its familiarity with the Miami Beach project — the firm was on the second-place team in last year’s convention center proposal. A mostly new commission, elected in November, voted to dump the old project, which had a $1 billion price tag and spanned 52 acres of prime real estate in the heart of South Beach.

That plan included the addition of a headquarters hotel, shops and restaurants, new public spaces, and even proposals to build new housing on the site. The city envisioned paying for the more expensive project by leasing out its land to private developers.

But the new commission quashed that plan after beating out incumbents who supported the sweeping project. Instead, the new commission is only seeking a renovation of its convention center, at least initially, and only using money Miami Beach has on hand from a bond, a special taxing district and a new hotel tax. The new plan does not include leases of public property.

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